Curator, Douglas, Michigan 49406
Your readers will be interested to know that a fine, operable steam plant is preserved aboard the retired steamship KEEWATIN at Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan. The old ship is doubly significant because she is the last of the Great Lakes' overnight passenger boats, and a coal-burner at that!
KEEWATIN and her sister ASSINIBOIA were the last of six handsome propellers built for the Canadian Pacific Railroad's Great Lakes services, and both were withdrawn from passenger service, in December, 1965. With their old wooden cabins, the CPR sisters were simply passed up in the race for speed and safety; both the US and Canadian governments passed legislation requiring steel superstructure on all commercial passenger craft, and the last remaining overnight boats in North America were all forced to retire.
KEEWATIN was designed with ASSINIBOIA to replace three older sisters on a run between Lake Superior and Georgian Bay. She was built in 1907 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company at Govan, Glasgow, a 350-footer of some 3,850 gross tons. The new sisters were given accommodations for 288 passengers each, and they were run by a crew of 86. Like their predecessors, ASSINIBOIA and KEEWATIN were built to carry grain from Port Arthur to Owen Sound along with their regular passenger load; each ship could handle 3,000 tons in bulk or sacks.
One of KEEWATIN'S most distinctive features is, of course, her power plant. She is driven by a condensing quadruple-expansion engine built by the Fairfield shipyards. Her cylinders measure 23, 34, 48 and 70-inches in diameter, with a stroke of 45 inches. The engines develop 3,300 horsepower at 100 rpm, driving the old steamer at speeds upward of 14 knots. Steam is supplied by four Scotch boilers 11 x 14 feet, two of which have been dismantled and removed since KEEWATIN was brought to Saugatuck two years ago. The rest of the ship's machinery is maintained in the same fine condition in which it was left when engineer Gordon Gervais rang up 'Finished with Engines' for the last time on November 29, 1965. Plans for the ship include turning over the huge engines for the visiting public, and that operation should become a reality in 1970. Most of KEEWATIN's auxiliary machinery is also Clyde-built, dating to the ship's construction in 1907. This marvelous collection of antiques includes her great steam windlass with two deck winches, the steam steering-engine two small engines driving twin 30-KW dynamos, eight steam pumps (for ballast, fresh water, boiler feed and sanitation systems), and a cargo-hoisting engine on her main deck.
The ship is now open to the public under the name of the SAUGATUCK MARINE MUSEUM? She is maintained unchanged throughout, and exhibits shown aboard KEEWATIN feature Great Lakes lore and Saugatuck's colorful local history.
We feel that KEEWATIN is quickly earning the prominence she deserves as the last passenger steamer on the chain of the Lakes, and the only marine Museum of any sort on the whole of Lake Michigan.